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Children's Health

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Kids See Fewer Ads for Sweets, More for Fast Food

Study Shows Some Improvement in TV Ads Targeting Kids Since 2003

Some Positive Strides Seen continued...

In 2007, children watched an average of 3.5 hours of TV every day. Overall, food TV ads fell by 13.7% among children aged 2 through 5 and 3.7% among those aged 6 to 11 from 2003 to 2007, but food ads increased by 3.7% among teens during this same time.

TV ads for sweets decreased from 2003 to 2007. Specifically, there was a 41% decrease of exposure to ads for sweets among 2- to 5-year-olds, a 29.3% decrease among 6- to 11-year-olds, and a 12.1 % decrease seen among 12- to 17-year-olds. Commercials for sweetened beverages decreased by about 27% to 30% among different age groups , the study showed.

Exposure to ads for bottled water and diet soft drinks increased for all age groups.

Fast-food TV ads, however, increased by 4.7% among children aged 2 to 5, 12.2% among kids aged 6 to 12, and 20.4% among teens aged 12 to 16 from 2003 to 2007, the study showed.

The researchers also looked at the racial gap in TV food advertising and found some important distinctions. For example, African-American children saw 1.4 to 1.6 times as many food ads each day as their white counterparts, and African-American children and teens saw double when it came to exposure to fast-food ads per day when compared with white children.

More Corporate Responsibility Needed

Michael Mink, PhD, an assistant professor at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Ga., recently published a study that found that making food choices based on TV advertising results in a very imbalanced diet. His findings were published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

“The number of sweets and beverage ads did go down, while fast food increased in the new study. And that is an equal trade-off, but not necessarily a good one,” he says. “Companies need to focus on marketing and creating healthier foods and convincing people to eat better.

“They make a lot of money off of foods that they know are unhealthy, and there have to be ways to make money on healthy foods,” Mink says. His mantra? “If its advertised on TV, it’s probably not good for you."

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